Capitol Comments

New Jersey state agriculture officials recently announced a victory in the daunting task of battling invasive pests with the eradication of the Asian long-horned beetle. The 10 year effort required the removal of more than 20,000 infected trees and through its successful quarantine program, it's now the second state (after Illinois) to have confirmed the eradication of the destructive pest that bores into America's most common tree species like maple, birch, and poplar.

Officials from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Governor Dannel Malloy have expressed an interest in creating a new auction program for utilities to bid on the right of providing power to more than 800,000 residential customers who have not signed up with an independent electricity provider. According to a story in the CT Post, the auction could provide the state upwards of $80 million.

Solar panel installations rose 76 percent last year, according to a release by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) which is the national trade association for the industry. Overall, installed solar capacity was 3,313 megawatts - a record for the industry.

On a party line vote of 58-39, the Wisconsin General Assembly sent a high-profile bill to Governor Scott Walker's desk for consideration yesterday which would make substantial changes to existing permitting and environmental regulation to open a large iron mine near Lake Superior. Despite the objections of environmental groups and Native American tribes, the Governor is expected to sign the bill and in a statement he praised lawmakers for streamlining the regulatory review process in order to help create needed new high-skilled jobs.

A new proposal, HB 2615, endorsed by both industry and environmental groups has received bipartisan support in the Illinois State House which may lay the groundwork for a regulatory path forward on the often controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing. According to news reports, the filed bill - titled the "Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act" - would require oil and natural gas operators to test water in all phases of drilling, require chemical disclosure of fracking solutions, address air pollution concerns, and hold companies liable for water contamination found after drilling operations.